Do you support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education? Are you committed to funding associated reforms, and if so, how?
Rubin: As a certified elementary school teacher who taught in the Peace Corps, and the father of three daughters who attend the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), I am deeply committed to the success of our school system. While we will not know the Commission’s final recommendations until after the election, we do know that the MCPS system, which receives about 12% of state capital funding while accounting for nearly 18% of Maryland’s school population and 40% of its school enrollment growth, is not receiving its fair share of the state’s revenue. Both the State and County have roles to play in meeting per-pupil spending and I would advocate for cost-sharing between the two that keeps pace with rising enrollment. I will fight to grow the MCPS budget through a multi-faceted approach that will raise revenues in order to grow the State’s overall education budget, secure those gains in an Education Fund, and tie funding to enrollment growth. Such an approach would smooth out the financial costs to MCPS associated with enrollment spikes by creating a consistent supplemental funding source, while also addressing base budget needs. I will also press for a State Constitutional amendment to direct casino revenues to supplement the State’s education budget – particularly for capital investment - and propose a mathematical formula that keeps pace with our school’s needs. This would help fund the reform Commission’s recommended reforms and secure public education funding for the long term.
Is Maryland’s transportation spending appropriately balanced between roads and transit? Does the state have the resources to meet its transportation needs? With the cancellation of the Red Line and the advent of BaltimoreLink, is the Baltimore region adequately served by transit?
Rubin: Transportation is a quality of life issue that affects every Marylander. However, Governor Hogan has long neglected our state’s transportation infrastructure, choosing now as a time – in an election year – to propose vast sums of new spending with hardly any community involvement or transportation expert planning behind it. I do not have confidence that his plan is either financially feasible nor makes sense for north-south commuters on I-270. This proposal also comes in a vacuum, rather than as part of a comprehensive regional transportation plan – something that should be required before any such significant investment - however much needed - is made. My family and I have lived in Montgomery County for over 10 years. I’ve taken the Metro to work most days and personally understand the frustrations that many have with our public transportation and automobile traffic. And as a Town Council Member in Chevy Chase, I have engaged my constituents on issues related to the Purple Line and dealt with the Hogan Administration’s botched rollout of that massive infrastructure project. We can and must do better. To do so, I would work to secure dedicated, stable funding for major transportation projects. I would advocate for competition and innovation in transportation to get better results out of the money that we currently invest. And I would prioritize spending funds for environmental impact studies and safety reviews for all projects, so that we ensure that we get it right.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Rubin: I support a structured pathway for marijuana legalization and oppose federal efforts to roll back recent gains towards this objective. It should be decriminalized and access to medical marijuana should be both simple and accessible. In addition, marijuana businesses should be able to operate without fear and a portion of the tax revenue obtained from these businesses should be dedicated towards researching the impacts of marijuana and other drug use.
At a time when the federal government’s commitment to Chesapeake Bay restoration is questionable, what new steps should Maryland take to protect this resource?
Rubin: I strongly support regional and statewide efforts to both protect and clean up the Bay, as these efforts require multiple stakeholders to take action for the Bay to become truly clean. In particular, I would focus my efforts on strengthening wastewater treatment. To do so, first, I would work to reduce nitrogen loads flowing into the Bay from Maryland by sponsoring legislation to fund nutrient removal technology upgrades for sewage treatment plants. Second, I would sponsor legislation to fund septic connections for already upgraded treatment plants within the scope of Maryland’s State Watershed Implementation Plan. We should not drop any programs to clean up the Bay until it is certifiably clean, and in Annapolis, I will strongly support efforts to protect the Bay. Our communities, not polluters, should come first. Therefore, environmental quality in our communities should be judged by how communities are being impacted by pollution, not just by how much pollution each individual emitter creates. A holistic understanding of pollution levels in a community must be a prerequisite for any permitting decision, to ensure that the community impacts of the pollution are the first measurable criteria for regulation. I would push the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) to establish a baseline level of acceptable pollution levels in a community prior to deciding upon permits. And I would then press the MDE to only provide permits that add up to that level, and not beyond.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Rubin: I have had successful surgery and had health coverage, so I recovered without fear of financial collapse. No one should have to live in such fear, which is why Maryland needs a single-payer system. Yet because of the federal repeal of the individual mandate, many Marylanders live in such fear. I will fight for the state to backfill funding for Medicaid expansion to ensure that that doesn’t occur. After that, we should consider banning private insurance that fails to meet the standards of the original Affordable Care Act and establishing the legal existence of a single insurance pool to which all Maryland citizens who are financially able will contribute. These would be the first steps toward creating a public option through which the State of Maryland could help shape the ultimate realization of a national and universal public health care program.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Rubin: Naturally I would look to Baltimore-area legislators for leadership on this issue. That being said, I am a big believer in community policing. I would support police officer training that is developed, taught and sustained with trusted community partners who directly represent the neighborhoods they patrol. I also favor emphasizing de-escalation measures in police training, believing that the use of force should be an absolute last resort. A major component of community policing is for the police to take proactive steps towards learning the cultural dynamics at work in their communities, in order to make better-informed choices when interacting with people from different backgrounds. This training should be provided early in an officer’s career and sustained through active partnerships with immigrant rights groups and local leaders. I would also push police departments to hire officers that reflect the racial, ethnic, and religious makeup of the communities where they live and work. I believe these types of policies foster trust and respect between people and law enforcement which will lower the violent crime rate. I also want Maryland to have the strictest gun safety laws in the nation. I am in favor of blanket bans on all semi-automatic weapons and requiring intrusive background checks to keep guns off our streets.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Rubin: As a small business owner in Maryland, I understand what it takes to compete in a dynamic economy. Like most small business owners, I pay attention to immediate issues related to revenues, expenses, taxes, and infrastructure. Our state economy is at a crossroads, where economic development needs an injection of creativity and dynamism. The federal sector has long been a reliable employer, but as it’s constantly put under duress by constrained federal budgets, it’s clearly not enough to sustain our economy. I studied business at Carnegie Mellon University and teach there (in the DC office) as a Visiting Fellow. I believe that we need to unleash the vast human capital that our region both attracts from around the world and cultivates here in our schools. For example, I believe we need to invest more aggressively in school construction, so that our children can learn in state of the art facilities. We also need to train our workforce more proactively in science, technology, and mathematics, so that workers can reinvent themselves through new skills acquisition. And we need to facilitate access to both capital and to technology incubator facilities to encourage new entrepreneurs to locate here in Maryland. Attracting companies like Amazon would help in this regard. On the Chevy Chase Town Council, I made key votes on budget issues to ensure that our town is both balancing its books properly and supporting local economic development. I also support an $18 minimum wage and will crack down on pay discrimination.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Rubin: Maryland is one of the most gerrymandered states in our country and, if elected, I’ll advocate for the implementation of the recommendations of the independent citizen commission to transparently draw districts using objective and nonpartisan criteria. I am an enthusiastic supporter of my 9-year old daughter and wife who co-wrote The United Shapes of America, an anti-gerrymandering coloring book.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Rubin: I would support increased civilian participation and voting on police hearing boards to make police departments accountable to the communities they serve. The House of Delegates recently passed HB 1016, which allows municipalities to appoint civilians to police hearing boards, but their power is limited and an officer can bypass the hearing altogether. As a Delegate, I would review the implementation of HB 1016 in order to measure whether it is an effective solution to police misconduct. I would also consider additional legislation to empower both civilian oversight and inspectors general who would oversee police internal affairs investigations and pass their findings on to the review board. I also believe nondisclosure agreements are too often used to intimidate and silence victims of police misconduct and I would support restricting their use. We must remove special rules that lower the public trust and should instead increase transparency whenever possible, especially regarding an officer’s disciplinary history. We cannot hold problematic officers accountable if key information is not made public. In this case, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Rubin: Drug addiction is a significant problem in our communities, particularly with the opioid crisis, as Maryland is one of the most impacted states by this crisis. We should therefore do all we can to prevent the spread of truly addictive narcotics, including prescription drug abuse. I also recognize that our current drug laws have had an unacceptable disparate impact in terms of arrest rates for African Americans that far outstrip arrest rates for whites, despite similar usage rates. We need to take a closer look at this dynamic and review our law enforcement efforts to ensure that this disparity is rectified. Ultimately, we have to treat addiction as a public health issue and not a criminal matter. That will require increased support for health outreach, behavioral therapy, and preventative education.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Rubin: In addition to raising the state minimum wage, I would also call attention to the cost of living and explore policies that prevent rapid rent increases and curb abusive behavior on the part of landlords and developers. Rent and property prices in many parts of Maryland are out of control and we must put in place sustainable policies that allow for affordable, rent-stabilized properties for middle and low-income families. According to the Montgomery County Rental Housing Study, released in June 2017, rental housing accounts for around 33% of all housing in the county, and 75% percent of renters earn less than the area’s median income. As Delegate, I would support policies such as rent stabilization and legislation that curbs abusive behavior and price gouging on the part of landlords and unscrupulous developers. I will also support sustainable development and infrastructure projects that allow our workforce to settle, live, and age with dignity here in my District, Montgomery County, and in communities around Maryland.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Rubin: I believe our civic and political institutions are the bedrock of our society and we must do all we can to protect them from dangerous interference, both foreign and domestic. I favor the public financing of state elections at all levels. Here in Montgomery County it has brought significant diversity and openness to the process. The result is that we have more competitive candidates who reflect the broad array of communities that make up the County. I believe the same should be done at the state level, as currently the individuals competing for state office are limited in both their economic and community diversity. We need to create a state finance system that maximizes the value of small donors beyond just the dollar amount that they contribute. As Delegate, I would explore policies that make their contributions go further. This would drive a public financing program providing unparalleled government transparency, shifting power away from entrenched wealth, and encouraging new candidates to enter government. I also believe that automatic voter registration, particularly through drivers licenses and other analogous mechanisms is a must. Additionally, I think we should rename “Absentee Ballots” to “Mail-in Ballots” Such reforms, in conjunction with strengthened amendments to the Public Information Act, would make our government more transparent and more accountable.